The school now promotes a plastic-free culture in providing meals and snacks for more than 400 students and teachers by using mugs made from bamboo, bowls from coconut shells, and plates from banana leaves.
The idea is based on the Wala Usik (a Hiligaynon phrase meaning zero-waste or nothing-is-wasted) Sari-Sari Store, an initiative of the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation Inc. (PRRCFI) through its Sea Waste Education to Eradicate Plastic program or SWEEP.
BNHS principal Eiggy Duller Yap was inspired to reform the school canteen plastic-free after attending the Danjugan Island’s Marine and Wildlife Camp last summer.
Yap, who took over as school head just this year, recognized the threat posed by plastic pollution to natural resources, noting that single-use plastic is often mismanaged and causes problems to the environment and public health among schools nationwide.
He said in a statement, “Why not adopt this [Wala Usik] model and reduce plastic waste at source at the same time promote what’s local. Imagine, if all school canteens in the Philippines become zero-waste.”
The BNHS Wala Usik canteen features walls painted with colorful marine life with the theme “More Fish, Not Plastic” done by volunteers from the Association of Negros Artists. The wall pays homage to the rich biodiversity of Cauayan waters and the Danjugan Island Marine Reserve and Sanctuaries.
The canteen will be managed by the school’s Teachers’ League Association, and will also be used for the school-based feeding program.
Executive director of PRRCFI, Dave Albao, shared that they are honored to be a long-time partner of BNHS since conservation work involves experiential learning and community engagement.
“If more communities become conscious of how their waste is managed, they will see that the priority is how to reduce waste at the first place, especially plastic that threatens all life,” he added.
Last April, the PRRCFI also launched a Wala Usik sari-sari store in Barangay Bulata, which is one of the eight operating in Negros Island. These stores are partners of PRRCFI in the project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Municipal Waste Recycling Program.
For now, Yap is seeking additional support from stakeholders to make the school canteen fully operational. They need more chairs, tables and other equipment.
Photos courtesy of Philippine Reef & Rainforest Conservation Foundation, Inc (PRRCFI).